Provence region, southern France, is not only famous for the yellow of the sun, lavender purple or tingling, but also sweet in the sweet Calisson almond cake.
The symbol of the Aix region, recognized as a heritage of the city of Aix-en-Provence, is the story of Calisson cakes dating from the 15th century.
Instructing RFI in Vietnamese to visit Le Roy René’s factory (in Aix-en-Provence), turning 100 in 2020, Ms. Cécile Lefebvre, in charge of communication, started with the legend about the lozenge cake that made many sobbing heart. The Calisson d’Aix macaroons recipe has not changed since the Middle Ages.
Calisson: Combining specialties of Provence
The cake dough consists of three components, divided in equal proportions: almond, melon jam melon and orange peel. All are regional produce: almonds and orange peels are harvested in Aix-en-Provence and the Mediterranean, cantaloupe grown in the famous Cavaillon land then made into jam in Apt, the capital of Fruit jam from the fourteenth century. Each cake has three layers, following the traditional recipe:
– The first layer, considered to be the base of the Calisson d’Aix cake, is a very thin layer of unleavened bread. Next is a Calisson cake mix made from almond flour, orange or lemon peel and cantaloupe jam. Finally, topped with a hard, thin and smooth cream layer (glace royale) made from the diameter and egg white ».
Calisson d’Aix marzipan, a specialty of the Aix-en-Provence region and protected by its name, must respect a number of specific criteria, as explained by Cécile Lefebvre:
– Calisson d’Aix cake, to get the «protected name», must be 4 to 6 cm in size and weigh from 10 to 14 grams, must have at least 65% melon melon jam. And it is important to be produced in Aix-en-Provence or in the Aix region ».
Biting the pretty little cake, one could feel a small crack from the hard white cream on top, followed by a thick layer of cool dough with the smell of melon and a little sour on the tongue, finally the base. slightly chewy cake. It weighs just over 10 grams but to make a Calisson takes a lot of time, it may take up to a week.
Combining technology and workmanship of artisans
After many disinfecting steps, wearing protective clothing and washing hands, walking through the main door was a large workshop full of machines and a place where the “sweet smiles” came out. Ms. Cécile Lefebvre explained:
– The first step, to be able to hold long, almond flour must be dried. Then, when baking, they are moistened again in this steam mixer, thus bringing about 3-4% moisture to the almond flour. This is just the beginning, there are many other stages.
Pierrot has worked at Le Roy René’s house for 25 years. He is responsible for kneading dough:
– Almond flour is moistened again with hot water at 96 ° C in this kneading machine, for a certain period of time. The flour is then mixed with a cantaloupe jam, or any other ingredient according to the recipe, along with orange or lemon zest. The second step is to grind all the mixture. The crushed mixture is then transferred to a conveyor belt. In parallel with the pulping step, we reheated the sugar syrup, then poured the syrup with the flour mixture. The final step is drying the dough.
Drying the dough, which means that the dough is put into pots, not used right away, it is incubated for at least three days to let the dough lose its moisture and also to the syrup from beetroot to mix into the dough. Then, the dough worker has incubated the dough into a bakery press. All operations are by hand, from pressing the dough to the mold, brushing off the excess powder, then pouring the cream on top and wiping the excess cream away. The top layer of cream, made from the diameter and egg white, can also be mixed with different types of syrup, such as strawberry, raspberry … to create eye-catching colors and colors.
– The newly made Calisson will be placed in the oven, within 10 minutes, to the cold cream on top stick to the dough. This step also helps to absorb moisture from the product, while also helping the shiny cream layer. This process averages about 10 minutes at 155 ° C for traditional Calisson. As for the «Calinou» cakes (small Calisson), it takes only 9 minutes and at a slightly lower temperature. After that, the cake is completely edible because this is not the baking step.
From the noisy manufacturing plant, the operation of the machine, entering the packaging area is a wider open space, less noise and the women staff quickly pick up the bread into the box. In the middle of the workshop is a special robot system, invested by Le Roy René family separately:
– We have an automated system, but only for specialties Calisson d’’Aix. The Calisson cakes come from the white tunnel, called the cooling tunnel. They then go through an optical detector, so that the robot arms remember the location of the Calisson cakes and know where to pick up the cakes. These arms can fit 160 Calisson wheels per minute.
However, there are still Calisson cakes missing, so at the end of the line, there’s a female packaging worker picking them up and putting them in a box. Particularly for the Calinou (small Calisson), they are packed by hand, one by one.